A serious task, this is, in many instances; taxing the doctor's skill, and not very rarely baffling him. How, then, can one say anything about it in a work on Home Medicine ? A few clear principles seem to be all that can be here spoken of, referring the reader for a larger discussion of the subject to treatises designed for the medical profession.
Inflammation (as already said in that part of this book which dealt with the nature of diseases) may affect any organ or portion of the living body. When it attacks one of the more important organs, or even extensively involves the skin, life may be endangered by it. If only a small part, as an eye, ear, hand, or foot, is inflamed, there is usually much less danger, though there may be a great deal of suffering. Moreover, an inflammation may spread, as from the ear or the eye to the brain ; or some poisonous (septic) matter may be formed in the inflamed part, and by blood-poisoning (septiaemia), the whole body may suffer and perhaps die. Septicaemia is very often fatal, but a vast multitude of people have inflamed hands, feet, eyes, noses, jaws, etc., without either it or the allied disorder, pyaemia. The liability to such accidents of inflammation is greatest where the atmosphere of the place is foul.
Taking a broad general view of inflammations as a class of disorders, it may be said that they have three stages, or progres-sive changes.
First comes excitement. Towards the centre of the inflamed part, the arterial blood-vessels beat and throb ; being roused to endeavor, so to speak, to overcome the obstruction there. Heat, redness, swelling, and pain, all belong to this stage.
Then follows exudation. This is the forcing of some of the fluid portion of the blood (often with some of the white corpuscles; occasionally also a number of the red corpuscles) out, under the pressure of the excitement and resistance together, through the walls of the vessels, into the substance of the part. If this fluid is thin, it may collect as a "serous effusion;" such as is frequently the result of pleurisy. When thick and adhesive, it glues parts together (plastic lymph); this happens in the pleura, in the peritoneum, in the pericardium, and in the membranes of the brain. If, again, there are many white corpuscles in it, and the vitality of the part is disturbed much, pus is formed; we have suppuration; with either an abscess, or, at once, a yellowish or greenish prudent discharge (as in severe bronchitis).
I'his is one way in which the three stages of inflammation may follow one another. But, differently from this, there may be the firststage of excitement, and the second, of ex-udation (effusion), with, for a third, instead of suppuration, gangrene, or mortification.
More frequently we have inflammatory excitement, and moderate or small exudation, followed by resolution; that is, the inflammatory process ceases, without either suppuration or gangrene; and the part and the patient get well.
Now, what can be done by treatment against the going on of inflammation to its worst (gangrene), or the next worst (suppuration), or the third in seriousness (liquid affusion) ?
We can attack it in the first stage of excitement, with, in many cases, very good affect. This is what we mean by reducing inflammation; moderating the violence of the conflict between the surrounding throbbing blood-vessels and the obstructed centre, so that the least possible damage shall be done by it.